Mobile Device Use StudyThere is no question smartphone adoption has skyrocketed. You need to look no further than a dinner table in a busy restaurant to see people more engaged with their devices than they are the people right in front of them. In just the past four years the number of Americans accessing the Internet on their cell phones has more than doubled, going from 25% to 60%. As consumers, our behavior has literally been rewired by our devices.

But what does that mean when it comes to shopping for a car?

That’s the question Cars.com set out to answer when we engaged Placed Inc., the leader in location based analytics, to better understand how the use of smartphones is impacting automotive retail. In this independent study, Placed tapped into its panel of 125,000 smartphone users, and identified car shoppers by their actual location on a dealership lot. They surveyed more than 500 shoppers to understand if and how they used their smartphones for research before heading to the dealership and while on the lot.

The Mobile Majority:

While we have seen a steady uptick in mobile traffic at Cars.com (nearly half of our visits now comes from smartphones and tablets), the findings surprised even us. The data showed that the majority of shoppers now use their smartphones when shopping for a car – 81% used their device at some point in the research process. And contrary to some industry beliefs that mobile is not a unique channel, one in four shoppers used only their smartphone for research prior to visiting the dealer. The study also found use of multiple devices is common, with 51% using both their smartphone and a laptop or PC for research. This speaks to the need to reach shoppers across screens.

Comparing Options on the Lot:

Even more telling was the number of shoppers using their smartphones while at the dealership. Sixty-three percent turned to their device while on the lot to conduct additional research. This shows that even once a shopper steps on your lot, you are not the only influence. Shoppers stay connected, shopping your competitors from the comfort of your showroom, and that action has an impact. The study found that mobile auto shoppers were 72% more likely to visit an additional dealership than shoppers who did not use a smartphone. Of shoppers who visited more than one dealership, more than half (52%) did so because of information gathered on their mobile device.

The data is clear: Getting a shopper to the showroom is a good indicator they are ready to buy, but closing the sale requires going a step further. Understanding the types of content shoppers are looking for at this critical point can help you better engage buyers and keep them moving toward a sale. Top on-lot activities included calculating price and payment information, confirming vehicle availability and comparing local competitors.

Cars.com Placed On Lot Mobile Activities

Mobile Ads Have Influence:

While some have questioned if advertising can really work on the small screen, findings from Placed suggest that it is indeed having an impact, as 33% of shoppers were lured to a competing dealership based on a mobile advertisement found while on a dealer lot.  Other forms of content such as inventory, reviews and offers are also influencing behavior, giving dealers who have a strong mobile presence a chance to stand out and attract shoppers who are actively out shopping and highly engaged in the research and content they are consuming.

The study holds valuable insights that can help us all more effectively reach and influence today’s constantly connected consumers. As consumers have gone mobile, so must our marketing and our showrooms. Throughout NADA, Cars.com will be providing tips to help you navigate the mobile era with a mobile first approach to marketing, your website and even your showroom process. Stay tuned as we continue to share additional tips, insights and best practices.

To learn more about this study and read the complete report, “Mobile Device Use at the Dealership” visit http://dealeradvantage.cars.com/on-lot-mobile-study.